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Spermidine for Longevity with Leslie Kenny
Episode 5117th December 2023 • Biohacker's Podcast • Biohacker's Podcast
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In this episode, Leslie Kenny joins Dr. Olli Sovijärvi to discuss the various health benefits of Spermidine, its natural food sources, and recommended supplementation.

Leslie Kenny is an Oxford-based entrepreneur born in California and a graduate of Berkeley and Harvard Business School. In her 30s, her life changed dramatically when she was diagnosed with an array of autoimmune conditions - lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and hypothyroidism. Her doctors told her there was no cure and that they could only be managed with strong immunosuppressants.

Raised with the mentality that it's best to work with your body's innate wisdom to heal itself, Leslie chose to instead support her immune system in its natural abilities. As well as becoming a certified health coach, Leslie began helping scientists at leading European universities, including the University of Oxford, to raise money for their health discoveries.

It was at a meeting with one such scientist that she learned of a compound called spermidine. Because it was a natural and food-derived compound, not a drug that would bring in more money, no one was interested in promoting it. So with the support of esteemed University of Oxford scientists and doctors that make up our Board of Scientific and Clinical Advisors, Leslie launched Oxford Healthspan with its flagship product, the plant-derived spermidine supplement Primeadine®.

Learn more about Leslie and Oxford Healthspan at https://www.oxfordhealthspan.com!

This conversation was recorded in November 2023.


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Key moments and takeaways:


00:00 Introduction by Dr. Olli Sovijärvi

01:25 Spermidine basics

02:16 Micronutrients in semen

02:53 Babies need spermidine, mothers lose hair

04:02 It's not just about SAM-e

05:41 Spermidine for recovery

07:46 Natural food sources

08:58 A healthy gut is crucial

09:37 Bacteria that make Spermidine

10:32 Top 3 food sources

14:00 Chlorella as a source of spermidine

15:18 The optimal dose

17:02 Avoiding anti-nutrient dense foods, alternative diets

20:30 Long term effects, hallmarks of aging

22:39 The Goldilocks Zone and fertility

25:50 Other benefits of spermidine & Primeadine

28:00 The Salvage Pathway of polyamines

29:41 When should you start supplementing?

Transcripts

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Welcome to Biohacker's Podcast. I'm Dr. Olli Sovijärvi and we have Leslie Kenny

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from Oxford HealthSpan.

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We're going to be talking about spermidine, their product Primeadine,

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which is absolutely fantastic.

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So welcome, Leslie. Thank you so much for inviting me and always good to see you.

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And I know that your wife is a happy client, so that makes me extra happy to be here.

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Yeah. She fixed her hair a couple of years ago after having labor and being

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very stressed out, so Primeadine and spermidine in particular helped quite a bit.

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But today we're going to be talking about maybe three very important topics.

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Basically overall what spermidine is, we don't have to go to basics because

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people know about spermidine already, but what I'm really interested in is hair

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growth. Can it actually help with gray hair?

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I don't actually have any of those yet, but when I took a look at the research,

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which was from last year, there's actually pretty interesting research on the melanin,

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melanogenesis and all kinds of things related to that. But what is spermidine?

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In a couple of sentences, why people should have it and can we get it actually

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from somewhere in the food and we can just move on from there? Sure.

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So, spermidine is a polyamine. It just means it's made from multiple amino acids,

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in this case arginine, which a lot of bodybuilders take, is also good for nitric oxide production,

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and S-adenosylmethionine or SAMe, which some people take to raise their mood. Now, it is

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made in the body, in our tissues, in our gut biome, and then we get it also from plants.

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And when we want to have a baby, it's very important in semen.

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So, hence the name spermidine. But why do men get that down feeling the day

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after they've had sex and they've ejaculated and given away all their spermidine?

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They've just given away their SAM-e as well, right? That is separation.

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I never thought it like that. I was always thinking about zinc and all these micronutrients.

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There are lots of micronutrients in semen, right?

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Glutathione, vitamin C, magnesium, zinc, among others, but there is a lot of spermidine in there.

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And of course, when we command the body to make semen, we're taking that L-arginine

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and that acetanisyl methionine and we're giving it away.

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It's not actually the choice of the man. Then evolution has programmed us this

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way for the survival of the species.

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Now interestingly, the same exact thing, same thing happens with women,

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and your wife will have experienced this after she came out of labor.

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So babies need spermidine to grow.

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It helps with faster cellular turnover, and of course when we're babies we're growing very fast.

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We can all see that when you look at a baby one year and the next year they're twice this size, right?

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So that is all powered by spermidine and human breast milk is full of spermidine as well.

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And it's not up to the mother to decide, do I want to give my spermidine away?

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The body again, just like with

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semen says, survival of the species is our number one aim on the planet.

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We're giving away all of the spermidine to the baby so the species survives.

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Unfortunately, because spermidine is what keeps the hair follicles in the antigen

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or growth phase, if that spermidine is not available to the mother, guess what?

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Her hair moves into the resting phase and then the shedding phase.

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So it's about six weeks for that resting or catagen phase, and then into the

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telogen effluvium or shedding phase.

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And the other thing that happens after women give birth is they also can experience

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postpartum depression.

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SAM-e, again, SAM-e, hello, SAM-e.

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Hello. Right. It's not, now it's not just going to be SAM-e.

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It will also be, there could be some thyroid link as well, because during gestation,

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the mother is completely, she's, the baby is completely reliant on the mother for thyroid hormone.

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So the mother's giving all that thyroid hormone to the baby,

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but is also giving all that spermidine and SAM-e to the baby as well.

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Baby comes out, mother keeps giving SAM-e away in the form of breast milk.

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Yes. And also DHA like docosahexaenic acid which is just popped in my head,

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very important for the brain and nervous system development, eyes and so on.

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And women tend to store DHA in their eyes especially like the other types.

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That's good to have a little bit of X-raying there but if they gave away their

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own like what they have, it's not like enough saturated from the diet so then

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they're like giving away because the baby needs more.

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So this makes a lot of sense and why it's very important to keep all these things

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that the baby needs But also you need to supplement them if you're not getting from the food

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which we can talk about in a minute. About hair growth, that's a super interesting thing.

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When you're actually having a baby, it's not like your priority to grow hair.

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And the kind of white birth that happens when you are pregnant,

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then your glowing hair is like this.

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Of course, the hormones are up, but it's a major dramatic shift.

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This is something that could really help post-labor ladies and mothers to regain

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their vitality back. Exactly, you're really just topping it up.

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And it's very interesting that we also see the same effect when people have

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survived a viral infection,

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whether that is the, collectively, say, we're going to use the spermidine for.

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Virophagy or fighting off the virus, hair is like third priority,

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not interesting to the body when it's trying to survive and fight a pathogen.

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And so you use all that spermidine to kill the infection. And then again,

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we have this period, usually it's about six weeks after somebody recovers from

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their viral infection that they notice hair shedding.

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Because again, the hair follicle goes from the growth phase into the resting

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phase for about six weeks and then starts just coming out.

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But gray hair can happen then too. And the reason why is because if hair is

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in the antigen phase, that is the only time when pigment production or melanogenesis happens.

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So as soon as you move the hair follicles into another growth phase,

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which is like the resting or the shedding phase, pigment production cannot happen.

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So I have met people who've said, yeah, I recovered from COVID,

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but my hair, it became gray. Oh, very interesting.

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Very interesting. You became old, like 20 years older.

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That is part it but it's not that your system per se is getting older but as

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you explained it's the hair growth phases are like disturbed.

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Yes, that's a good way to put it.

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Yeah, and the body triages, right? You're a medic. And so imagine when the body

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has an emergency room situation, whether that's delivering a baby or fighting a pathogen,

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the body immediately says spermidine is needed for this and just grabs it from all other sources.

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Now, hair is the easiest place because we don't need our hair to survive.

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But if it begins to pull it from other places, is, for instance,

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from the heart, from the brain, from other tissues that really do need it to

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function better, then that becomes more of a crisis for the body.

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So it's always important to try to get this in your diet.

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And happily, we can get it from foods like mushrooms, and I know the Finns are

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very big into their mushrooms, it's fantastic.

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And you can get it from fermented products, you can get it from cheese,

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for instance, And the Japanese equivalent is fermented soy, natto and tempeh.

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And my preference is for the natto because it actually has higher quantities

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of the spermidine and spermin in it.

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You can get that in Asian food stores.

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If it's frozen, it's a lot easier to take. Now those don't necessarily have

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as much of the spermidine and spermin as you would want, but it's a good place to start.

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So always get it in your diet first and then you want to make your microbiome

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healthy as well because the microbiome is always capable of manufacturing these polyamines.

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So spermidine is one but spermine is another that's very important and there

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have been studies done that show for both male and female fertility it's good to have both.

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So that you would get generally in your food products.

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So if we stick to the food, what would be your top three sources?

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Some people can get enough from food assuming their gut biome is also producing enough too.

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For those people who've been exposed to broad spectrum antibiotics and have

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wiped out their populations of healthy bacteria that can manufacture this,

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for people who eat an ultra-processed diet the way that most people in industrialized

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countries do today and they're not getting enough plant material and resistant

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starch to feed the gut bacteria that can make it, they probably need to top up.

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What are the gut bacteria actually that make it up? because I would be very

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interested to know this.

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Let's say you measure like a broad gut bacterial or microbiota analysis.

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So what are the bacterial strains that make Primeadine? Two bacterial strains

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are Fuso and Bacteroides.

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So we know that at least with Primeadine original, the one that your wife was

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on, we have a prebiotic fiber in there that those two bacteria will selectively grab.

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They love to eat it and it helps keep them healthy. The idea is to make those

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colonies of Fuso and Bacteroides bigger to outcompete the bad bacteria.

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So if you have H. pylori or Candida in there, you want to outcompete them with the good bacteria.

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True. So Bacteroides, it's a huge pile of different bacteria and Fuso bacteria

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makes it a bit more specific,

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but that is perfect to know that getting like your gut microbiota very diverse

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and especially these strands like highly populated is a good way to approach

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this and then you would want to have a diverse diet.

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And let's hear your top three. It would be natto, shiitake mushrooms and sauerkraut.

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Sauerkraut, that is a surprise.

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So there's besides having a lot of vitamin K2, there's also...

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All plant material has some spermidine and for me it's just that's very easy

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for me to integrate into my diet.

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Kimchi is a little too spicy for me, but any fermented food is great because

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you're getting not just the spermidine and the resistant starch, the fiber, in there.

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But you're also getting other healthy bacterial colonies in there.

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A spoonful of a fermented food is so much more than what you get in a teeny

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tiny capsule. It's alive.

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It's alive, right? Living food. Yeah. So that is a perfect example.

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I know people who have gone crazy with wheat germ because it's basically the

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richest source for spermidine, also has a lot of gluten, so that might be a

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problem because it's from the inside of the grain.

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And because I'm an autoimmune patient or survivor, I've been off of gluten for over 18 years now.

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But the other reason I don't get it from just eating a lot of wheat germ is

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because of the fact that we don't know how the wheat germ has been handled.

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So from the time it goes from the mill to the time it gets to the storefront,

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the omega-6 fatty acids can go rancid. So it needs to be refrigerated at every step.

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So if you know the miller and you trust them and it's done in a cold environment, then might be okay.

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Or if it's packed under nitrogen, okay, but all omega-6 fatty acids are prone

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to rancidity and lipids, any fat, will become part of the outer membrane of the cell.

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So you don't want it to become inflamed, right?

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If it's rancid, it's inflamed. and then it begins to leak material from the

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cytoplasm, which then infects other cells, inflammages them and you don't want that.

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So it's like with nuts, if I know the provenance of nuts, then fine,

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I'll eat them, but you don't want rancid nuts either.

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And yeah, there comes the risk of having too many anti-nutrients.

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Let's say you have almonds which have those sunflower seeds,

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suddenly you're getting like tapenines from sunflower seeds and almonds have

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oxalates and other antioxidants.

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So those are really not the best sources. For me, if I would think where I get

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the spermini would be very aged mature cheese, like these hard cheeses.

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I really love them. I'm dairy free.

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So that's another option for you. And also what was surprising was potatoes.

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So I just check that one kilogram of potatoes might have up to 36 milligrams of spermidine.

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So that's quite a bit. So let's say that I often do eat in the evenings quite a few potatoes.

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So I think there's also quite a bit of spermidine coming from those. Depends on soil.

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Of course. Everything depends on soil. But I'm growing my own potatoes,

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so that's a super rich soil or that at least should be. Chlorella.

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So I tried to find exact numbers for Chlorella and what I came up with was like

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this 300 parts per million, which translates to 0.03 milligram per,

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I think it was like per hundred.

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100 grams of spermidine, like chlorella, but there's clearly something in there.

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So what do you think about chlorella as a source of spermidine?

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I do chlorella and that's why I'm using, I'm actually making a product that

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has a high spermidine concentration in chlorella.

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All chlorella has some spermidine. All plants have some spermidine.

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Not all chlorella strains have the same amount of spermidine.

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So we had to test over a hundred different varieties to find one that had the

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best high amounts in relatively small quantities.

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So in this, you can get two tiny tablets, gives you 1.2 milligrams of spermidine,

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which is reasonably high.

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And there's no iodine in it, which is unusual. Chlorella strains do vary.

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Most chlorella strains have iodine in them, but this one doesn't.

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It doesn't have spermine, which I think is unfortunate.

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We do have another product that's made from wheat germ that has spermidine,

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spermine, and putrescine, so the full polyamine.

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Like the whole cascade. Exactly, the whole cascade.

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This one is just spermidine and putrescine, another lovely name,

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and it's a precursor to spermidine, but it is a rich source,

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and it's a rich source of K2, vitamin D, iron, there's even lutein in this one.

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Let's say you take spermidine supplements like your Primeadine,

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how much is the optimal dose and how you make sure that it's getting absorbed

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and used and utilized in the body?

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So we know that spermidine has a relatively high molecular weight and that it

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is absorbed very readily in the gut.

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And this is something that Japanese scientists looked at quite a long time ago.

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So when you get it from food sources, it's not a problem crossing into into

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the bloodstream and being sent systemically through the body.

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So that's not a problem at all. The dose, the minimum effective dose is one milligram.

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And that's what, it sounds relatively small when you think, oh you can get 36

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milligrams in potatoes. On a kilo.

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Yeah, okay, a kilo of potatoes. And I, again as an autoimmune patient,

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I stay away from nightshades. I'd say potatoes are like, I eat them and my fingers swell up.

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So you do have to be a bit choosy.

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But one milligram is good. And again, I stress prebiotics. Just keep putting fiber into your diet.

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It will be good for you across the board, but it will be feeding.

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Andrius Lehtonen Let's say you have SIBO, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth,

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and you want to limit fiber so you're not feeding the harmful bacteria in the small intestine,

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or you're not tolerating food bumps like these fermentable carbs,

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then of course the approach would be quite the opposite, to actually reduce

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the fiber count, but you can still feed the system getting enough from the diet.

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I'm just like wondering here, what would be the optimal diet?

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Let's say you're avoiding these anti-nutrient dense foods, would it be like

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that your top three, that would be like the way to go with using spermidine as food?

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Or do you absolutely need supplementation? I'm sure that's something people

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eventually turn into because they realize, okay, I'm not going to eat this much of this kind of foods.

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Well, chlorella is a good place to look if you have SIBO or leaky gut or you're on the FODMAPS diet.

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And we developed this especially for people on those diets because I knew having

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done the autoimmune paleo diet myself.

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That I couldn't do things like potatoes or wheat germ, just was off the table.

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So I think chlorella is an interesting option.

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Now there will be every now and then there are a few people who can't tolerate algae.

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And so you do have to know if you can do that. But otherwise,

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it's a great, it's a great option. And you don't have that sense of bloating

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that you do if you take a prebiotic fiber or you have fiber-rich foods. Sure.

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Let's say that you're now beginning to take Primeadine and what I've been taking

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is the chloral one, like the gluten-free one, because I'm genetically predisposed

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to having a celiac disease based on different like HLA,

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DAQ 2.2 gene and so on.

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How long would it take to see any kind of benefits for, let's say,

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the typical dose, which would be like 1.2 milligrams, maybe double that.

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What are the typical things that I would see?

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So one of the first things you would notice would be if you have an Ourovrine,

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you might notice that your sleep improves.

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In particular, deep sleep, some people see it in their REM sleep.

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So that can happen the very first night that you take it.

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Then the next place, probably after about 14 days or maybe even 10 days,

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you may notice that you have to trim your nails. So, they're growing like the connective tissue.

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They're growing, exactly. So, spermidine increases keratin, so keratin is in

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our hair and in our nails, so you will see that and you'll notice that.

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And of course, we don't notice it as much in our hair, especially women,

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but for guys that you might notice that you've got to go to the barber sooner

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than you normally would have.

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So if it's winter, you're thinking, wait, I don't normally have to get my hair

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cut this frequently in winter, but this spermidine will mean that you will have to do that.

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So those would be the indications of faster cellular turnover.

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Increased keratin production.

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And then most people then start to see little baby hairs.

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So if you ever notice with your kids, you see these little baby hairs that they

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have, and they have a lot. And in Japanese medicine, that's a sign of vitality, actually.

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That's what my wife got, like, when she began taking the spermidine.

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It was like, hey, look at this, I have a piece of...

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I'm a lucky one with more hairs to have. It grows like crazy,

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like all the time, has a lot of this and I need to go to the barber every three weeks.

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And I, when I started taking that, I'm like, okay, this is maybe a bit too much.

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Now everything's like, I'm, I'm turning into like this hair monster.

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Struwwelpeter. Yeah. Yeah. So I'm probably getting a lot of that from food,

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but many people are not that those would be like the things to look out for,

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like the first response is.

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And then what's happening in the long-term, we can touch a little about the

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hallmarks of aging, let's say from autophagy to telomere length and stuff like that.

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And it appears that sperminia has some kind of role in most of the hallmarks of aging.

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So we know it inhibits nine of those pathways down which we age,

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they're called the hallmarks of aging and stem cell dysfunction,

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mitochondrial dysfunction.

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Dysfunctional autophagy or cell renewal, inflammation, gut dysbiosis,

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those are five that your audience probably know about.

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There are other things like misfolded proteins and would also help with that.

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But if we think about how the hallmarks of aging, how they actually affect us

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holistically, think about when we are at our healthiest.

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It is when we are fertile. So, a woman who is able to carry a baby and basically

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support the species in its survival, she is at her absolute peak.

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And one of the exciting studies that came out just a few weeks ago in Nature

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Aging was a study in middle-aged female mice from China who were given spermidine.

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And it decreased the number of defects in their oocytes.

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So, oocytes are precursors to eggs, and it increased the number of follicles.

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So when we women—I'm now 58, so I'm 8 years post-menopause—

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One of the ways that you see if a woman has gone into menopause is you look

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at the number of follicles she has, right?

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So it helps with increasing follicles, it decreases defects and oocytes,

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it helps with embryo growth.

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And these mice that were given this had higher numbers of pups in their litters.

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They tried the same study in pigs and it also worked there. So that's very exciting.

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The only caveat was that they used synthetic spermidine, and they noticed that

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if they gave too much, and they don't know what too much is,

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that it actually decreased fertility.

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So it actually had the exact opposite effect. So that finding that Goldilocks

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zone, if you're taking synthetic spermidine, is very important.

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And it would be the same for male fertility, too. You don't—and we don't want

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men to lose their fertility.

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We already know male fertility is on the wane throughout the industrialized world.

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So we want to keep men and women at their fertile peak, if possible, for longer.

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So that's why food-derived spermidine is so exciting.

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That's what's in Primeadine. So I've only ever used food-derived spermidine in

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the case of Primeadine Original, which your wife was on,

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that is from Wheatshirm, where we take the rancid omega-6 fatty acids out and add the prebiotic.

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And then what you're taking right

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now is the one that is derived from this special strain of chlorella.

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And then we add in some Okinawan lime peel, some Okinawan turmeric,

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because they're also autophagy activators to help with cleaning your cells out

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and keeping them new because they're the building blocks of the whole body.

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And, they're all three are anti-inflammatories, but they're all from food,

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just high concentration.

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So the body knows what to do with food. When it sees synthetic spermidine,

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it can turn it into acriline, which is a toxin to the liver.

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That's very well explained. Always, when possible, go with food sources that

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we have been talking here.

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It seems that the autophagy, that is the most important kind of way the spermidine

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works, Although it has an effect on the different forms of aging,

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like they even sell our communication and like telomere attrition protection and so on.

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But autophagy, I was just thinking that you mentioned the misfolded proteins and

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what also fixes that is cold exposure.

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So you get these cold shock proteins. So could you stack up,

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let's say you have a good amount of spermidine, then you go to the sauna and then to the cold.

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So you get heat shock proteins, cold shock proteins and spermidine.

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Yes. And you're a bastard.

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Would that be like the ultimate hack for autophagy?

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So I've asked Gata Alsulae and Katja Simon here at the University of Oxford about this.

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And first of all, heat shock proteins, cold shock proteins, they help with chaperone.

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It's a different type of autophagy. They have said that if you are fasting,

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you don't need to take spermidine.

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Take it before your fast or after your fast. So to kickstart it and to extend it.

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And so I will just... Like before or later. Yeah, exactly.

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And then as you have your first meal, as you're breaking your fast,

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just want to make that clear.

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But yes, you could do the sauna, you could do the cold plant,

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because then you get that chaperone-mediated autophagy going?

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So let's say I do it fast and then I break the fast, which is an ideal after

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a cold, it's the sound obsession, and then I take the spermidine before going to sleep.

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So that would be like the ideal protocol to have the maximum results of the

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spermidine and all the cleaning processes and especially the autophagy. Exactly.

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Are there any other things that you would highlight here on the beneficial sides

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of spermidine and especially Primeadine?

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There are quite a few, but I think that looking at the most recent research,

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the fertility stuff I think is really exciting.

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And there are no downsides to us getting more spermidine into our diet,

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and it can only, it seems, help us stay younger and vital and frankly fertile for longer.

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So why wouldn't we do it? And of course, there are the beauty benefits.

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At 58, I still don't dye my hair and people are always amazed,

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but yes, you will see that pigment can come back.

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It's not in all cases, but you must get the hair follicle back into the antigen

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phase before pigment production of any kind can happen and the texture changes as well.

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And so women who have gone completely gray say that at some point.

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Their hair doesn't accept hair dye anymore.

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You need to change the texture back. it needs to be a little bit younger in

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order for it to take dye too.

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Yeah. So basically you are making yourself younger in multiple things, not just the hair.

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Of course, that's very prominent. Everybody sees your hair and they see your

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face, like your nails or something like that.

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But if you're wrapping up this, let's say I'm very sensitive,

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I cannot tolerate gluten, then the option for myself would be the chloride derived

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Primeadine and for others.

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Is there a difference? Which one of these is like the original one or the chloral based one?

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Which one is more effective? Have you done any studies comparing these two or is it both?

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It's just a matter of getting like the right amount.

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I would say they're a bit different products because the other one you have

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other elements that support autophagy but the other one is like the hardcore version.

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So, the Primeadine Original is my favorite, especially for people who are looking

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at things like gray hair reversal.

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And the reason why is that assuming you do not have a problem with gluten and you do not have SIBO.

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Or leaky gut, then you've got the entire polyamine recycling loop right there for you.

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Once the body has these three polyamines, spermidine, spermine,

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and putrescine, it can just keep making them again.

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It's a salvage pathway, and that is very exciting, right?

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You want to use that, and then you've got the prebiotic, which brings your body's

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own factory for making spermidine online again.

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So although it says one milligram spermidine on the bottle, actually it's more

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powerful than that because you've got the salvage pathway and you've got the prebiotics.

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So we don't know how much you're getting from bringing your body's own innate wisdom back into play.

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So this is very exciting and this is something I really wanted to hear because

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this is pretty similar to NAD+, which is a very hot topic at the moment.

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It's not just enough to have the precursors if you're not fixing the whole pathway.

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It's actually also the salvage pathway and NAMPT enzyme and fixing your own system production.

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So this seems that the primary original is very fixing the whole system-oriented

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natural food product and that would be your choice. It's my choice.

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I do take both though and I have people who love the chlorella-derived product

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Primeadine-GF who say that it helps with weightlifting.

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And I think that's just chlorella is generally very good for recovery and power, right?

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Indeed. This has been super fun to discuss Primeadine again and spermidine in

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particular with you, Leslie.

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Do you have any last words for our listeners?

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And I'm sure we're going to talk again very soon, and just why is this so wonderful

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and should everyone take it?

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When we're young, we're able to make it ourselves. I would say that if you are

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under the age of 40, you probably don't need to take it unless you are recovering

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from a viral infection or you've had a baby.

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So those two, remember. Or you're biologically aged, your mitochondria are not

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functioning in some way.

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But after After age 40, I'd say it's worth at least topping up a few times a

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year and then after age 50, I think we need to take it.

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I think we need to get it into our diet every day. The healthy centenarians

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are eating this three times a day.

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They have natto all the time. They have it at breakfast, they have it at dinner.

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They're having other foods with these polyamines. So it is a lifelong kind of

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thing and I think its presence in semen and breast milk underscores how crucial

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it is to human life. Indeed.

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Thank you very much, Leslie. Thank you so much for having me.

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Music.